Making a Date With Google

By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 14, 2006

Google Inc. released a calendar software system yesterday that can scan e-mails or Web pages for dates and times and, with one click, automatically log pending plans into an online calendar.

Google Calendar is the latest free tool introduced by the search and software giant to make organizing the desktop easier and to draw more consumers to Google products. Although Google Calendar launched without advertising, the goal for the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is to create more user dependency on its products, which, in turn, creates opportunities for selling online ads.

"The more time people spend on Google, the more of their lives they put on Google, the more opportunities Google has to monetize that in the future," said Charlene Li, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc. A plan to go to a movie on Saturday night, for example, might trigger an advertisement for a specific movie theater or a site that sells tickets.

Other software services already offer calendar systems that allow synchronization with other people's schedules, such as Microsoft Outlook or Yahoo Calendar -- both of which will be compatible with Google's system.

But Google's calendar software differs from others primarily because it allows users to maintain several kinds of calendars -- for work, social life, children's schedules -- and it is based on open software that can be integrated with other software services and Web sites. It also enables users to determine who else can view their calendar information by entering permitted viewers' e-mail addresses.

"Calendaring is a very powerful platform that intersects into other forms of content," so it could potentially integrate into more of the other digital tools people rely on, said Allen Weiner, an analyst with Gartner Inc. Google Calendar comes with the capabilities of invitation software like Evite, which allows people to coordinate events and monitor attendance, for example. It also comes with links, so an entry like "lunch at Havana Cafe" may turn up in the calendar with a link to a map to the restaurant.

The success of Google's product will depend, in part, on how much other Web sites or businesses adopt the product, Weiner said.

Li said the product could become a standard feature in many applications, as has happened with Google Maps. "With Google Maps, they were starting to control space, and here they are starting to control time," she said.

Companies will be able to specialize the product to suit their needs. For example, Google's product comes with a tool so baseball games, theater events and other calendar information can be searched online. Those same Web sites can also incorporate the calendar feature so viewers can click on an event to add it to their calendar. Users of the product can also sign up for text-message alerts that warn them of a pending commitment.

In recent months, the company introduced versions of a toolbar to allow users to search a computer's hard drive, transfer files between computers, and receive notifications for new e-mails or news feeds. Google also introduced a product called Google Pack, a set of basic software programs like anti-virus, photo and word processing software, all of which could be installed within 10 minutes.

"Google's mission is to organize the world's information, and what people have going on in their lives is very important for them," said Carl Sjogreen, product manager for Google Calendar.


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